Thank you for contacting me about the demolition of Palestinian property and Israeli settlements in the Disputed Territories.
The UK's position, which I support, is clear and longstanding. There should be a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and a fair and realistic settlement for refugees. The UK Government consistently calls – both bilaterally and via the UN – for an immediate end to all actions on all sides that undermine the viability of the two-state solution.
In the UK Government's view this includes the demolition of Palestinian property – homes, schools and so forth – and Israeli settlements in the Territories. Indeed, the UK Government thinks that these actions cause unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians, call into question Israel's commitment to a viable two-state solution, and, in all but the most exceptional of cases, are contrary to International Law. It also believes that settlement expansion is also counterproductive in light of the normalisation agreements reached between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. Ministers in London and officials from the UK Embassy in Tel Aviv and at the UN have been calling for demolitions and settlement expansion to cease with immediate effect.
On the issue of bilateral trade, the UK does not recognise the Territories and settlements there as part of Israel. Goods from settlements are not covered by the UK-Israel Trade and Partnership Agreement and do not receive preferential tariff treatment.
The UK Government advises British businesses to bear in mind its view on the illegality of Israeli settlements in the Territories under international law when considering their investments and activities in the region. Ultimately, it is a decision for an individual or company as to whether to operate in the settlements in the Territories. The UK Government neither encourages nor supports such activity.
The UK National Contact Point (UK NCP), which operates independently of the Department for International Trade, has not found that JCB violated human rights. In line with the OECD Guidelines, the UK NCP has advised JCB to develop a policy commitment to respect human rights and to carry out human rights due diligence in supply chains. The UK NCP will request an update from JCB on the implementation of its recommendations in late 2022, and stands ready to provide support as necessary in the interim.
Palestinian 'Human Rights Defenders' Designated Terrorist Organisations
HM Government has a close relationship with the Government of Israeli, the strength of which allows sensitive issues such as this to be raised. Although these designations (and the evidence on which they are based) are a matter for the Israeli Government, ministers have said that they are in contact with their Israeli counterparts to understand why they felt they needed to take this action.
Human rights and civil society organisations have a vital role to play in the development of thriving, open societies. Israel's longstanding commitment to democratic values is one of its great strengths as a fellow democracy, and ministers continue to make clear that a strong, vibrant civil society is in Israel's own interest.
The UK is a proud champion of human rights and a strong supporter of those around the world who dedicate their lives to defending them. Support is provided to HRDs through bilateral contributions around the world, and through core contributions to multilateral organisations. The FCDO also monitors treatment of HRDs in its annual Human Rights and Democracy Reports, the most recent of which was published on 8 July. That report paid tribute to the courageous work of HRDs and listed support for them as a UK foreign policy priority.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP